I’ll be a bit more forgiving since this is the first film from writer/director Shatara Michelle Ford.
The problem is that it doesn’t seem very believable. From the way this goofy guy approaches her while she’s out with her girlfriends, to the first visit to a hospital. We’re supposed to think this is a powerful way that people in Austin, Texas act or how the system doesn’t do things properly, but…none of this is how it would happen. Aside from way the actual date rape and drugging occurred. That’s rather powerful, and might work well for teens in school to watch as an educational film.
Renesha (Brittany S. Hall) is dancing with her friends, and a guy named Evan (Will Brill) who reminds me of Johnny Knoxville (with a bit of Screech from Saved by the Bell), approaches her and gets her number.
It’s hard to buy that he’d approach them all in the midst of them laughing and carrying on, or how the various women all giggle and get excited when he comes over. It’s as if this wasn’t the goofy guy from Saved by the Bell, but Zach or Slater. Yet he doesn’t call her, because…he’s shy or something. Luckily, he runs into her in a grocery store and that night takes her out for Chinese food, while their groceries sat in the car. The next time they meet for dinner at her place, you’re again wondering what she sees in this guy, especially when she’s such an intelligent woman who seems to have it all together. It’s cute that she has a messy bedroom she’s embarrassed by. They sleep together, and we jump ahead to them living together and him making her breakfast on the first day of her new job. That night he’s a bit drunk, and she comes home with tacos. She gets a call from her friend, and they have an impromptu girls night out.
So the women get together and bitch about Trump, and police officers shooting an African-American. Nothing says a fun night out then that. Seriously, if a woman had her first day on the job, and she comes home with dinner for her and her boo…I’m guessing the last thing she wants to do, on a Monday night, is party with her friend (at least not the character that’s established here). Perhaps if her friend had just gone through a nasty break-up, and wanted to “get her groove back” or just really needed a shoulder to cry on, that would make more sense. It would also make more sense as to why her friend would be a “wingman” and entertain these guys that approached them, with one pestering her to keep drinking and dancing. Yet as it stands, none of that makes the least bit of sense.
Two guys use the conversations about politics, to jump into the conversation, agreeing with them politically.
The guys end up drugging the women. It’s hard to figure out the various choices she’s making with this guy, but again, that’s why this would be an educational film for teenage girls.
My wife, who ran a rape crisis center for years, was surprised that they would go to two different medical centers that turned her away, and not an ER at a hospital, and that they didn’t call a women’s center for advice. It seemed absurd that at each medical facility, no one wanted to call the police or to give her a social service referral or tell her exactly where to go. Her boyfriend seemed fixated on having the evidence collected rather than having his girlfriend treated. Yet this narrative is supposed to anger us, because of how she’s ignored. I’m not sure if there’s an implication that it’s because she’s African-American, or they’re just incompetent. I’m also not sure how, her boyfriend who seemed like he might have had a low IQ or something, all of the sudden got a lot smarter. He knew exactly what they should do, he was very understanding and not the least bit angry at his girlfriend, and was a man on a mission. I guess people that aren’t that smart, suddenly gain some IQ points when tragedy strikes. Now, this is something that has long bothered me about movie characters. The first time I remember being bothered by it was watching Cool Hand Luke as a kid. The film is a classic, no doubt. Yet George Kennedy’s character (which he got an Oscar for), plays the smart guy in prison, running various schemes. Yet at the end of the movie, when he and Paul Newman are trapped in a barn, he becomes stupid. He talks with more of a hick accent, and is convinced the police won’t harm the trapped inmate. Made no sense. And in this film, the Evan we see in the second half just isn’t the same person from the first half.
I thought a more interesting story would have been to deal more with how the couple is coping with all of this, and less about the bureaucratic red tape they seem to be dealing with (that again, doesn’t seem believable).
A movie from last year that worked a lot better was Never Rarely Sometimes Always. It deals with a teen girl going to get an abortion. The reason that garners sympathy for her plight is — she needs money. She has medical staff implying she’s promiscuous, and others that tell her she’s killing a baby. That’s a lot for a naive teen to shoulder.
I remember reading in local restaurateur Ingrid Croce’s autobiography, her husband, famous singer Jim Croce, who when she told him how she was raped in Mexico. He took the news badly, punching her in the face. So the stories of how a date rape could affect a couple is much more interesting then trying to give us a message/story about how medical institutions and police agencies don’t know how to properly deal with rape victims, or treated them with disdain. Seriously, I don’t think medical professionals act like the folks at the window of the DMV. This is Texas, not New York.
It was refreshing that they’re an interracial couple and they’re not dealing with rednecks in a Texas bar bothering them. I would have just liked to have seen a bit more chemistry from them, other than the fact that the dude cooks a lot of bacon for breakfast, her favorite meal of the day.
The flashbacks to some things in their relationship just weren’t that interesting. The flashbacks to what she was trying to remember about the rape were well done, though.
Every time they’re together, I’m just wondering what she sees in this doofus, who’s a tattoo artist who’s fond of ripped T-shirts. My wife asked me, when he approached her, if he was mentally challenged or supposed to be drunk. I figured it was just a poorly fleshed out character, especially considering she dresses well, has a good job, and a great apartment with amazing views of the city.
The score of the film is annoying rising up and down in volume to overpower the scene, and the film is a bit too slow.
I’ll be looking forward to Ford’s next picture, and hopefully if she tackles a tough subject, she can explore it properly.
Even the title of this film was disappointing. I’m also disappointed in myself, for referencing Saved by the Bell (and the fact that I even know characters’ names from that show).
1 ½ stars out of 5.